Applying for jobs can be daunting and time-consuming. The tech interview and hiring process often takes weeks (or months!), and there’s no guarantee of success. But you can make life easier on yourself throughout… so long as you avoid these three key errors when applying for new roles.
You don’t have to look hard to find tales of people applying for hundreds of tech jobs, only to land just a few interviews. It’s not limited to the tech industry, either; for example, a nonprofit director built a job-application bot to handle their load… and things didn’t go well, to put it mildly.
When it comes to mistakes made when applying for jobs (tech or not), here are a few things you’re probably doing – but shouldn’t.
Cover Letters Matter When Applying for Jobs
Does the application process ask for a cover letter? Did you write one? More to the point: Did you write one specific to that company and/or job you’re applying for?
Most of us have a single cover letter we seed with all job applications. That’s the wrong move. Not only are you setting yourself up for mistakes (such as mentioning the “engineering role” when you’re interviewing for a Project Manager position), but recruiters and hiring managers can tell you’re phoning it in.
Not writing a cover letter specific to the job shows you’re not trying very hard. If the recruiters or managers aren’t captivated by your words, they’ll move along to the next applicant.
Some generic language covering your work history or personal interests are fine, but as we all know, the dream of “write once, apply everywhere” is dead, even with cover letters.
Try Not To Spread Yourself Thin
It’s tempting to do like many others and apply to any job that comes your way. Your experience and skillset check the necessary boxes for many positions, so you fire off a résumé and cover letter. You may do this hundreds of times, hoping your wide net snares some leads.
We won’t say you shouldn’t cast a wide net, but we will advocate for knowing your audience. We also suggest having at least a handful of jobs you are focused on getting, at companies you actually want to work for. (These are the jobs and companies you should know a lot about.) This is a great time to preemptively look for red flags by doing your research, such as checking a company’s Glassdoor reviews.
When possible, the best choice is to apply for 5-10 jobs you really want, and not to try to get anything you can. But even if you’re casting a wide net, try to have a few jobs you prefer, and put some extra effort into those. When it comes time to interview, others in the room will see you’re interested in the job, and have done your diligence.
Don’t Be Van Halen
The tale of Van Halen’s “no brown M&Ms backstage” contract request is widely believed to be a story of rockstar excess. It was actually a line-item to make sure promoters read their contract; if something so outlandish as eliminating brown M&Ms was noticed, the major issues (like having a stadium prepared adequately for the crew) were definitely taken care of.
So what do tight leather pants and 80’s glam rock have to do with you? Like Van Halen, being a rockstar with weird demands is a bad look. And like Van Halen, your requirements should be necessary, not just present for the sake of ego.
Do you want to work from home? Sure, why not… but if a company doesn’t offer it, don’t hold it over their head as a requirement for hiring you. Maybe the office has sit/stand desks, which is awesome, but you prefer a different model of office equipment. Don’t be a prima-donna and demand they supply you with your favorite stand desk and a Steelcase chair for those times you want to rest.
It’s one thing to let an employer know about important events ahead of hiring, such as your annual family reunion the second week of June every year, but demanding superfluous items or perks the company doesn’t offer is something else.
Bonus Tip: Handle Rejection Well
When searching for a job, you’ll get more rejections than acceptances. Instead of being upset when you’re rejected, handle it with grace… and be honest.
Internal recruiters or company HR folk like to keep a file on who may have interviewed well, or candidates who fell just short of their requirements. Replying kindly to a rejection email or call can keep your name bubbling at the top of their queue. Instead of a snide ‘thanks anyway’ or ignoring the email altogether, take a moment to collect yourself, then reply with warm wishes.
Being honest and open is a good move, here. If you’re sad the company didn’t hire you, say as much, and wish them the best moving forward. If you felt the job was a bit over your head, let them know you understand, and that you hope they found someone with a touch more experience.
Don’t be bitter. Remember, you’ve probably got dozens of other companies looking at your résumé, too. There’s always another chance.